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Just got back from Italy, got robbed on open street in Rome

Hi! My husband and I just came back from Italy, my second trip. We got robbed on the open street during the day in Rome by the train station while walking 50 meters to the garage to pick up our car rental. Also autoeurope just charged my CC again, trying to sort it out. Detailed trip report coming.

Posted by
9419 posts

Susanne, So sorry to hear this! It is such a rare crime in Rome. Do post the details when you have time.

Posted by
362 posts

So very sorry! Yes, please let us know what happened, what the thief was after. We'll be in Rome soon and will be going in and out of Termini station many times during our stay there. I agree with Laurel, this is not a common occurrence. Maybe in Napoli!

Posted by
616 posts

It is quite rare to be robbed in Rome. However, I know it is not going to be comfort to you but when it does happen it often takes place in dark spots, which may be the case when going to far away garages.
I have been working in Torino for years and just once over these 6 years, it did happen to me that a young foreign guy grasped me my iPhone why I was phoning. I screamed and some guys ran after the guy but he was too fast...
Also about what happened with Autoeuropa, didn't you have a proof that he had charged your credit car? And are you sure he did? Sometimes when you collect the car they ask you your card as a security but without taking monies from your card, they would only do it if you have an accident with the car or if you would not return the car for instance. At he time you return the car, they will of course charge your credit card unless you pay cash. Check your credit card bill and if you have been debited twice refer to Police in Rome.

Posted by
11970 posts

this is not a common occurrence [in Rome]. Maybe in Napoli!

No.

Although violent crime is not common, petty crime, such as pickpocketing, is very common in Rome as well, as in most big Italian cities.

What political correctness prevents us to say is that virtually 100% of these crimes are committed by foreign migrants, which are not just in Naples, but in every big city.

This is from the newspaper articles hit by a simple Google News search using the 3 keywords 'tourists', 'pickpockets', 'Rome':

Rome 29 Aug: Carabinieri anti-pickpockets operation: 14 arrested (9 Romanians, 3 Slavic gypsies, 1 Bulgarian, 1 Moroccan).
Rome 8 Aug: Carabinieri anti-pickpockets operation: 7 arrested (3 Romanians, 1 Moroccan, 1 Czech, 2 Slavic Gypsies).
Rome 25 June: Carabinieri anti-pickpockets operation: 24 arrested (14 Slavic Gypsies, 2 Colombians, 2 Romanians, 1 Mexican, 1 Chilean, 1 Lybian, 3 Algerians).

Then people act surprised if the xenophobic, often neo-fascist, political parties gain at the polls throughout Europe (and beyond).

Posted by
6045 posts

I too would like more details from the OP. Were you robbed at gunpoint (or other weapon) or threatened with violence? Was something lifted (pickpocketed) from your pockets or backpack or purse? Was a purse/bag/cellphone, etc ripped out of your hands? Knowing the details would help others.

Posted by
308 posts

Hi guys, sorry I was busy with unpacking and trying to wake up. We stayed in Rome from Friday to Sunday at the Beehive. We had to pick up our rental at the Train station and first you go get the paper work then you walk a few short meters to the parking garage to get your rental car. We walked to get our car, open busy street, middle of the day and like 10 feet away from the garage a guy came up to me telling me a bird had sprayed on me. He pointed up into the sky. My husband was in front of , he had 2 rolling bags and I had given him my backpack while I had a carry on and a bag around my shoulders. I had advised my husband many times NEVER to put a bag down but he did, in this case my backpack. He put it down coming towards me looking what was wrong and in the mean time a guy behind him stole the backpack. I think it was a group of thieves of 4 people. The first guy had sprayed me with a solution of mud and water! All on my shirt and my carry on which I did not let go. The backpack had all my Rick Steves books in it, phone chargers, reading glasses, Canon battery chargers and yes all my meds. Yup stupid me ! I am type 2 and need daily meds. Also a large yellow folder with detailed info about our daily schedule where we would stay, phone numbers, addresses of each B&B and it also had my e-mail address on the paper. I am a very organized traveler. The bag had no money, or any valuables at all to the thieves. After a while we retrieved our rental car noticing it was only half full. had many dents and nicks and on top of it not the Fiat we wanted but a 4 door smart car. Everything had been noted on the rental paper including the 1/2 gas tank. I was in a panic but my husband had a brilliant idea of going to a hospital to get scripts. The hospital was super, the doctor great and with the help of google and pictures of my meds from overseas my son in law sent we were able to get free meds and a free visit to the hospital. It was a great experience. Now here is the kicker! We left Rome on our way to Assisi I received an e-mail from a stranger. He wrote me he had found my meds, books and yellow folder and brought it to the Beehive. Is this crazy or what? And yes I picked up my meds on our way back to the airport in Rome.. As for the rental car we dropped it off at the airport and the guy said it was not full , it was almost full we actually had it washed and put more then needed gas in it. We showed him our rental contract where it clearly stated the car was only half full at pick up. This morning he sent me a e-mail which said he put 22 liters in my car and charged us over $100 for it. We contacted the rental company here and they are helping us out. Plus we made a pic at the airport with mileage and gas gauge.

Posted by
308 posts

As to the Termini station, I would never go back there. Its a very busy place and robberies happen daily. These are indeed non violent crimes however it seems to me the police really does not care. We did stop a police guy afterwards and he shrugged his shoulders. The doctor in the hospital also said its a waste of time to contact the police. I found it interesting how much police presence there is at all the historical sites but the train station had few. In general we did not like Rome. It was very dirty, graffiti almost everywhere. I can now say I saw it but have no need to go back. Just like NY I feel the same way about NY.

Posted by
8 posts

So sorry this happened to you. Thanks for sharing the details so others can try to avoid the same fate. Glad you had a (small) recovery.

Thank you for posting! Your info. Can help others. This was obviously an organized crime ring. They had a system in place. You were trapped. I'm grateful that the medical folks were able to help you. Diabetics must have their supplies to survive! I hope you will keep traveling, even if Rome is off your list. Best wishes to you as you recover from the shock of all this.

Posted by
1840 posts

If the issue w/ the car rental does not clear up quickly, open a dispute of the charge with your credit card company. Sounds like you have good documentation.

Sorry for all you went thru, but good to know there was a kind person who went to the effort to get your items returned to you. If only everyone in the world was as kind- hearted.

Posted by
11551 posts

Susanne, I'm so sorry you had a bad experience but for the benefit of other travelers, the "bird doo" or other type of, "You have something on your clothes. Let me help..." scam is well known. It's right up there with the gold ring scam. If approached, you ignore them and keep moving regardless of anything they've managed to apply to your clothing.

Termini is generally fine if you keep your valuables secured (as they should be anywhere at all), bags firmly in hand, and act like you know what you're doing.

Posted by
2727 posts

I don't agree with the Termini is generally fine comment. It has always been a focal point of crime against tourists in Rome, happening not just daily but hourly. I am glad they have now closed the platforms to non-ticket holders, at least that helps keep the thieves off the trains grabbing luggage before the trains depart. I agree that the reason high levels of crime persist in some cities is half-hearted police attention to the matter, and public tolerance of it (those poor people have no choice but to steal, etc.).

Posted by
23 posts

This forum is a wealth of information. It has certainly helped in my trip planning.

Good to know about the scams and what Termini station is like. We will be there in a few weeks' time, so any comments and advice are very timely. It certainly is making me more aware of how much not to pack and what to carry with me/or not.

Posted by
154 posts

Thanks so much for sharing your awful story. We are returning a rental car to Termini station and then going to our rental apartment, so we will be super careful about our bags. You did great!

Posted by
1700 posts

Susanne,
Sounds like a horrible day and makes sense such an experience would forever tarnish your impressions of Rome.
Given what happened and what we have heard over the years it does not sound shocking and similar scams are happening across many European cities right now not just Rome.
The most valuable take on this for the forum is always be mindful that these things most often happen with more than one player. One person causes a distraction while someone else snatches up the bag.

I personally think if you are flying into Rome and 2 or more people staying the ancient center the cost of a taxi from the airport directly to your hotel is worth the convenience. You save time, avoid the Termini area entirely and don't have to lug your luggage around.
I think given the total cost of a vacation sometime too much importance is put on saving 10 - 20 euro on these life conveniences which can just make for a better trip. Suzanne I realize this was a rental car situation and quite different and many others may be taking the train in from Florence or similar and cannot easily avoid Termini.

Posted by
7735 posts

I'll take the bait. One reason that it's not only offensive but pointless to speculate on the ethnicity of the thieves is that it can lull you into a false sense of security. If you think "Well, he doesn't look like a gypsy," you're a sitting duck.

Posted by
11970 posts

Michael:

Maybe one can spot a gypsy from their attire and slightly darker skin, but there is no way one can tell Italians and Eastern Europeans apart just by looking at them (many speak nearly perfect Italian anyway). So relying on "racial profiling" would not work.

40% of inmates in Italian prisons are foreigners (definitely a disproportionate amount considering that only 8.2% of total residents in Italy are foreign born), but the overwhelming majority of them come from the Balkan states (Romania and Albania in particular), since the majority of immigrants in Italy come from that region of the world.

Posted by
11970 posts

The car rental returns at Roma Termini is actually at the parking structure next to the Radisson Blue. It's located at the corner of Via Mamiani and Via Giolitti. You can see the location on the map here.

There is no reason to return the car at the airport to take a taxi from there. Just request a taxi to pick you up right there at the Radisson Blue Parking Garage. The rental car attendants can call it for you and they'll pick you up right there.

If you need to get on a train, there is no way you can avoid going near the station. The trains will not come to your hotel to pick you up there.

Posted by
308 posts

We had flown into Rome and taking a very good private shuttle service we had reserved in advance to bring us to the Beehive. We had no choice 2 days later to get a rental car and the train station was within walking distance. As for who robbed us I do not know what ethnic background they were. I think anyone in the world can be a robber regardless of color or sex. We did not like Rome so to speak and not just because of the terrible incident. Its a terrible feeling to stand in the middle of the sidewalk and someone robbed you and you feel helpless. We had our passports and so on around our necks and a small purse I had around my neck close to my body that I held with my left hand and my right hand held the carry on at all times. Auto Europe told us today they will refund us the refueling cost of almost 90 Euros and told us because we made pictures of the almost full tank upon arrival and also had it signed at pick up with the status of fuel there was no way they would charge us. I think robberies can happen anywhere but happened to me and too be honest it has put a dent in me. But I carried on and we enjoyed the rest of our trip. Be safe guys..

Posted by
7735 posts

Maybe one can spot a gypsy from their attire and slightly darker skin, but there is no way one can tell Italians and Eastern Europeans apart just by looking at them (many speak nearly perfect Italian anyway). So relying on "racial profiling" would not work.

Thanks, Roberto, for proving my point. Speculating about a thief's ethnicity is pointless and offensive.

By the way, Susanne, I'm so sorry this happened to you. Rome is one my favorite cities, and these thieves know so well how to distract unsuspecting people.

Posted by
2727 posts

If you need to get on a train, there is no way you can avoid going near the station.

Tibertina Station provides access to nearly all cities, and is not in such a scruffy area of town.

Posted by
1720 posts

Good idea, Tom. Tiburtina could be the way to fly in the future.

This thread is interesting because unlike others it's not sensationalized, alarmist and overblown--good, sensible account, Susanne, bravo. Glad you and your husband were not hurt. It's disturbing, however, in that this took place in broad daylight on a busy street in Rome.

We are in the planning stages of a Rome/Sorrento trip for late February/early March. It will be our third trip to Italy, all have followed the RS credo of doing your own thing without a tour. And we like to use public transportation when available. Initially we had planned on staying to the north of Termini by a few blocks--actually considered the Beehive--because we had heard that to the south and around the station could be sketchy. But I guess I have to think about Termini like Union Station in Chicago or Grand Central in NYC, to be ever-vigilant.

So, after considering Trastevere but then there was that weird American student mugging/drowning in the Tiber, we've pretty much decided on staying closer to the action (especially considering it's off-season), right around Campo de' Fiori, an area we're familiar with from past trips. We're still thinking about getting a VRBO apartment, but might opt for a hotel if reasonably-priced.

Bottom line is we won't be deterred away from visiting Europe by random crime, or planned terror for that matter. I despise what's happening to urban Europe as a whole. We were in Paris just after Charlie Hebdo and dined very close to one of the restaurants shot up by terrorists last November. But we will have to be smart about it. It's apparent the OP had done her due diligence on safety and it still happened to her.

Posted by
11970 posts

Tibertina Station provides access to nearly all cities, and is not in
such a scruffy area of town.

The reason why Termini is such a popular target of pickpockets is because most tourists use it. If all tourists move to Tiburtina you can rest assured the criminal gangs will do too in no time.

The issue is that in Italy crime pays because nobody goes to jail for anything but the most heinous and violent crimes. All other annoying petty criminals get a slap in the wrist and are sent back after a few hours at the police station. If you read the articles I linked above, many of the people arrested were known pickpockets who are routinely arrested and then released a few hours later. The expulsion of foreign criminals is also a ludicrous process. Basically they give you a foglio di via, literally a "go away paper", where you are mandated to leave the jurisdiction (in the case of a foreigner, the Italian territory) and then they let you go, hoping that the foreign offender will actually obey the law and leave on his own. Self deportation obviously does not work.

Posted by
823 posts

Susanne,

Tourist scams all over the world are well documented. Even Rick has several web pages and an entire forum thread dedicated to the subject. This very tactic has been discussed here and described in news articles from Amsterdam to Zagreb. I think it's even discussed on the US State Department web site... A little research ahead of time would have helped you prevent being a victim.

By the way, Termini is no worse than ANY major train station in ANY other big city around the world. There is no reason to avoid Termini if one keeps their wits about them.

But, I must confess that I, also, was the victim of a crime at Termini. Even after all my research, I managed to get duped into a fake taxi and got taken to the cleaners for what should have been a 10 euro taxi ride. (It looked like a taxi, it was in the taxi rank, it had the signage of a taxi, it had the taxi 'cap', but it had no meter, so it wasn't a taxi.

My point being, live and learn. Crime can and does happen everywhere. Try to prepare yourself better but don't "write-off" Rome or Termini Station because of one bad experience.

Posted by
158 posts

After numerous trips to Europe I have only been robbed once (in Naples) but it was due to my own carelessness -
We still laugh about our hotel landlord's
response when we returned to the hotel and he asked how our day was and I told him my camera was lifted - "It is their job"
he explained.

Posted by
5308 posts

Yes, auto rentals sometimes get extra charges tacked on either by mistake or hoping you won't notice -- we got billed for an expensive fender repair in New Orleans and were only able to refute it because we had kept the form where the renting agent had marked the same area as having damage; company apologized and dropped the payment demand (and possibly went after the prior renter.) Good that you had evidence!

Posted by
7735 posts

Rachele, great anecdote. And some of them are very, very good at their jobs.

Posted by
158 posts

Maybe this has been mentioned before in the Forum, but there is a great video on Utube titled
"PickPocket King Bob Arno" which is filmed in Naples and includes a supposed insider's take on the art of picking pockets, and other sneaky tricks.

Posted by
2727 posts

By the way, Termini is no worse than ANY major train station in ANY other big city around the world.

This is just wishful thinking, evidence?

Posted by
3807 posts

I believe maybe part of the reason it happened in broad daylight on a busy street is for precisely that reason - who would think someone would be bold enough to do that. They catch you unawares and with your guard down for a moment - it can happen to the most vigilant of us. Instinct (the natural instinct to wipe bird poo off your clothes and the natural instinct of your husband wanting to free his hands to help you) can overrun your brain pretty quick before you realize what is going on.

I had two girls try something with me on an escalator in Paris - luckily my brain kicked in and I realized what they were doing, but my first instinct was - oh darn, the escalator broke. Then as they were trying to 'help' me with my suitcase (yes, I travel light and only had a carry on), my eyes said to my brain - you saw that girl bend down and hit the emergency stop button. Something isn't right...and I struggled with them over my bag.

I hope you don't let it spoil Rome for you too much. I was also not a fan of the graffiti (ditto for all of the graffiti in Venice - especially one visit on the Rialto Bridge) but I still enjoyed it enough to visit twice for 5 nights each and even take my mom the 2nd time.

Posted by
1720 posts

The problem is twofold. As Roberto said above, there is no criminal downside to pickpocketing, whether it's unsuspecting or a distraction to the victim. There appears to be no enforcement of the law, and the criminals know this.

The other thing is...they know the 'marks' are not armed and 99% of the time will not turn aggressive against them. Sometimes your wallet is lifted before you even know it, but if it's a distraction-type deal, I'd yell bloody murder, maybe even fight back if I have the chance. They say not to do that, but screw 'em.

Posted by
3367 posts

I will share a comment for others' future trips - not aimed at making Suzanne feel worse about this incident! Glad to hear the hospital was so helpful for your critical meds!

As we were waiting in the Venice train station, we were watching people come and go for 20 minutes. Numerous people had large and/ or numerous bags they were trying to handle with both hands. Others had 1 bag and maybe a small crossover purse and were moving through efficiently. It was a good visual of how important packing light could lessen (not eliminate) the chance of being a target.

Posted by
2040 posts

For those who think this is a European problem only. I have watched the escalator trick happen at The Gallery, our large downtown Philly shopping area built under and through former large department stores and over part of the transit center. A group of teens or younger hit the emergency stop button on the escalator when it is crowded, and then careen through the crowd on the escalator in the opposite direction of travel, grabbing stuff while they push startled people aside. And scatter in all directions as they get off so nothing Mall security can do. You have to be careful in crowds no matter where you are.

Posted by
308 posts

I posted a review of our trip under trip review. Thank you for all the comments. Happy Traveling

Posted by
3807 posts

What Jean said is certainly true about people travelling with lots of bags. At more than one train station we would witness people travelling with more bags than hands and they'd have to leave one of the suitcases at the bottom of the steps (at those stations where you would have to go down steps and under the tracks and back up) while they schlepped their other bags up. Just reinforced my decision to travel light. Or the time we were in Ottawa and there was a woman there with 4 large duffel bags at her feet...if someone wanted to grab and dash, what do you do? You can't leave the rest of your bags sitting there to give chase. Def don't take more than you can handle.

The same trip to Paris with the escalator incident, we helped an older gentleman (I'd say mid 70's) who was travelling overloaded with large luggage (and his elderly wife who wasn't able to handle the large bags) by taking one of his bags down the steps to the metro (we asked of course and were obviously tourists with our own bags) otherwise he would have had to leave it and go back up, just tempting someone to take it. We then chatted with him while they waited for the metro...they were from the UK. They really should have been using a taxi.

I think the "moral of the story" here is always be cautious. Even cautious travelers can get nailed with scams of some sort. I don't want newbies to Rome to get paranoid about Termini. I have been through Termini a few times without getting mugged. Use safety precautions listed by RS like neck pouch, money belt, etc. Stand where you can see around you, so no one can sneak up on you. Wear generic "cheaper" clothes. Act like you know where you are going. Keep moving if you can, once you exit a train. Be reserved in your speech and demeanor. Don't linger outside the station. Etc.. Maybe we should start a thread on Tips to Avoid Scams and Muggings. We can all add our personal tips.

Posted by
158 posts

Great tips! I would add - Ignore people who call out to you offering their services or whatever. Just act like you don't hear or understand.

Posted by
41 posts

Thank you for posting. I was wondering how much of a problem this really is, or if it is exaggerated. I was on the fence to buy an anti-theft cross body bag for my trip in 2 weeks, and now I will go ahead and buy it. Then I will have just that and 1 suitcase, so I can easily keep track. (My husband will have 1 small backpack and 1 suitcase.

We always marvel how we have never had or even seen an incident like this, in NYC, San Francisco, Paris, Nice, etc. But I have heard Italy is worse.

Posted by
11681 posts

Dress well ( like a European), look like you know what you are doing. Stay together and talk to your travel companions. Do not make eye contact with anyone who seeks you out. Know where you are going--taxi stand or whatever. If you are going to the taxi stand, stay in the queue for the official taxis and do not fall prey to the people who try to divert you to an unofficial "scam" taxi. We saw lots of those at Termini but knew to avoid them.

Posted by
2040 posts

"We always marvel how we have never had or even seen an incident like this, in NYC, San Francisco..."

Right - in our big cities, most street crime to take one's belongings usually involves a beating, a knife attack, a gunshot...

As for Paris and Nice, this is also standard per the reports here.

Posted by
3807 posts

I think the odds are pretty slim considered how many millions of people travel to the cities/countries every year. That said, maybe someday it'll just be your bad luck that it'll happen to you. You just have to take whatever precautions you can and hope you don't get singled out.

That being said, I have a friend who had his cargo pants pocket slashed in Spain and he lost his passport. The best he can figure is it happened on the subway and he didn't even notice for a few hours that his pocket had been slashed. It was one of the pockets lower down on his pant leg.

Posted by
106 posts

So sorry to hear of your troubles while on vacation. Your story certainly will make me more aware when my family travels to Italy next June. I hope you are able to maintain some happy memories of your trip.

Posted by
2727 posts

I think the odds are pretty slim...

I disagree with this line of thinking for specific places in Rome (Termini, sidewalks near the Colosseum, some bus lines), Paris (sidewalks around the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, Gare du Nord, some metro lines), Barcelona, Madrid, and specific locations in other tourist crime hot spot cities. In hot spots in these locations, based on personal experience, the odds of getting observed by a criminal are possibly even, the odds that they will make a move against you maybe 10 to 1, and maybe of those 5% of the attempts will be successful. So the odds of being a victim are not great, but certainly not slim. This type of street crime (pick-pocketing, bag or clothes slashing) is hundreds, if not thousands, of times more likely to occur in these European hot spots than in a similar tourist situation in the US, or in Germany, the UK, and Scandinavia.

Not sure how you came up with these numbers for determining the odds. Fact is crime is a random occurrence. Folks just need to be informed as best possible and take self-protective steps. Even the best prepared tourist can still get zapped. I even experienced embezzlement from one of my former employees right here in cow town USA. It hurts - even when corrective action takes place.

Posted by
30957 posts

Susanne,

Sorry to hear about your misfortune in Rome. It's a good reminder for travellers to be vigilant when visiting Rome or other cities in Europe, as scammers are at work and will take advantage of every opportunity.

Unfortunately you were victims of the classic "Pigeon P--p" scam, which has been around for awhile. I was almost a victim of that on a trip to Brussels a few years ago. A "scruffily" dressed individual approached me in one of the stations and in broken English said that a bird had messed on my clothes and he would help me to clean it off. I knew what was coming so told him to pi-- off and I'd deal with it at the hotel (there was nothing on my clothing).

Hopefully you'll have a wonderful and problem-free trip on your next visit to Italy.

Posted by
463 posts

Stuff happens everywhere. My daughter had her wallet stolen on a bus near Cancun. One of the members of our group was standing outside our "nice" hotel in Buenos Aires and found a young child had his had in his pocket. A friend had her purse grabbed in Florence. I think being aware and not carrying too many suitcases helps.

Posted by
30 posts

In April I noticed fewer issues in Rome, Florence, and Venice...on the streets and train stations. I believe that the many armed soldiers and police at the train station and tourist spots may have limited the number of pickpockets. I travel light, wear my cross-shoulder bag under my jacket and act like I know what I am doing and so far have not had any incidents. The biggest "problems" we encountered were the attempts to get us to purchase selfie-sticks...even when they saw that my son-in-law had one. However, a nice "no thank you" in either english or italian worked.

Posted by
308 posts

Marie we actually observed very little police and soldiers at the trainstation. At major attraction we saw a lot of police. And yes I agree the people trying to sell you stuff is very annoying . We also witnessed many females perhaps gypsies trying to get money from people. I was very firm and told them no, many times over and over again. In general we are giving but reading about it beforehand made me weary. The strangest thing we saw after a tour of the Vatican exiting and down the street was a nun begging for money. I highly doubt she was a nun.

Posted by
2427 posts

Susanne, I am sorry this happened to you. It could happen to anyone.

That being said, It is my observation that at Termini, at least, they watch and go after tourists with their hands full. I think it is important to always have at least one hand free, for safety reasons as well. Also, I think the fact that your husband had two wheelies and an unattached bag. It is important to carry your own bags, IMO and the feminist in me as well... :) I actually don't call this a robbery, it is just the usually pickpocketing scheme. Also, it is likely the thief saw your medicine and had the conscience to make sure it had the likelihood of being returned. The medicine should always be as secure as your passport, CC's, etc. This is where a cross body purse works best as it can remain attached to you the entire time and right in front of you while you are out and about. It is sooooooo easy to become distracted when in transit or during the course of the day, so I always have the most foolproof system as possible. Whenever anyone gets in your space, it is important to step away and then decide if they are a peril (overstatement) or not.

The first time I brought my step daughter (age 30) at the time and my then 15 year old daughter to Italy, we were heading toward the exit of Termini. I had already nagged my step daughter to put on her money belt so I knew she had that on. She was a classic target. She had a backpack as her luggage so that wasn't an issue, but she had her waistebelt/purse in one hand and a RS Italy book in her other, waving them around expressively. I thought she was a sure target, but decided, as she had her money belt on, that I wasn't going to nag a 30 year old the entire trip. We weren't across the street yet when she was mobbed by a group of old ladies. LOL However, it is a fun story because she had the important stuff secure. Of course, she was a classic, because a couple of guys came up to her, 'helped' her pick up what fell on the ground and asked her if she had her PP and money and she just patted her money belt; however, at that point we were only about 15' away and watching so after showing them where all her important stuff was, they couldn't or wouldn't get to it because we were watching. Really good looking guys though... All she lost was her address book! Fun story thanks to her money belt.

Posted by
11551 posts

It's possible that amount of enforcement present at any given place is dependent on specific security cautions that may or may not be public information. I'll note that that back in 2009, Paris was crawling with both police and armed military. They were everywhere, and we experienced two security shutdowns of the Eiffel, one at Gare du Nord, and an emergency clearing of a street during the week we were there. Those incidents are just the ones we knew about: there could have been more.

As far as being hassled by aggressive panhandlers, hawkers, drunks and whatnot, we've experienced all that and more in San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Mexico and downtown area of our own city. I'll throw Paris in there as well. The difference between those abroad and those is my own country is that I'm frankly far less concerned about those encounters turning violent there than I am here. Just IMHO.

Posted by
752 posts

Next time i'm at the Farmacia or Supermercato I'm looking around for small spray cans I can carry for self-defense. I carry Mace here i bought at a gun shop and my keys are handy weapons too.

I've been sprayed too but never knew what it was, it dried so fast in Italy's sun and I wear simple clothes i wash out every night anyway. I practice not stopping and reacting to anything, i keep moving.

You really do have to keep walking no matter who's yelling at you, no one has a reason to come up to us or follow us.

Posted by
1654 posts

On our last night in Italy before flying home, we took a Walks of Italy evening tour. It didn't dawn on us or the tour guide that this was the last Saturday night before Christmas. There must have been 20,000 people walking the Via del Corso! It's the only time I felt a little uncomfortable on our trip, because we were shoulder to shoulder in the crowd. Luckily we had no problem. I did get accosted by one of about five "students" trying to do a survey. She evidently knew enough English to understand my firm F* off!

Posted by
208 posts

So sorry, Suzanne, and thank you for sharing your experience.

I must say that I roll my eyes at any advice that says, "know where taxis are", or "walk like you know where you're going", etc. etc. We ARE tourists, and part of being a tourist means you probably DON'T know where you're going. I find this especially true when you exit a station of any sort... which way is such and such...??? It takes time to get your bearings.

Also, as a tourist, it is VERY difficult to be "super vigilant of your surroundings". You are SIGHT-seeing! It is part of being a tourist to look up, down, around... looking at the SIGHTS! I look up as I walk on a street to marvel at the architecture... I'm afraid of missing all those details! As travel savvy as I believe myself to be, I cannot be hyper-vigilant all the time. If I were, I'd not be getting anything out of my trip, so why bother to go?

I think what is critically important is to be pre-prepared. I truly believe that being pick-pocketed is a matter of "when", not "if". So, measures like using your "deep safe" (whatever form you choose, but is essentially under your clothes), and carrying/lugging only MINIMAL stuff, so that you can easily manage it yourself. When you stop to confer, stand with your backs to something like a wall, TRY to assume that any distraction is a ruse (not easy -- I'm a nurse!).

The videos I've watched have shown that the pickpockets are working ALL the time... scouring the crowds for easy "marks". They are most likely to utilize a distraction ploy once they've identified you as being burdened, and unaware. Anyone can be distracted by their ingenious ploys.

Also, I'm learning that terminals/stations are prime because 1) you're encumbered, and 2) they know you're carrying ALL your goods on you because you are in transit. They're very smart.

Having said that, my two close experiences were... 1) my husband had a pickpocket attempt made on him -- a woman's hand slipped right inside his front pants pocket (in Rome, in the evening when we were returning to our hotel after dinner, very few people were on the street, She barged right between us, as she walked brusquely from behind to ahead of us.. she patted his arm and said, "oh, excuse me, sir". She came out of nowhere). And, 2) my friend had the strap of her purse slashed at Trevi Fountain. She was carrying it cross-body, and she noticed the purse sliding down her front, and she was able to catch it. It had been slashed behind her back.

I'm going again in a few weeks (4th time to Italy). I hope the measures we take will prevent us from being victims. I want to be able to look around at my surroundings to experience the wonder of it all, and not feel like I have to be on guard all the time.

Posted by
308 posts

Dear vfyorke I thank you for your kind words. Indeed we had all of our luggage and we had already downsized our luggage traveling to Italy. The short distance from the station to the parking garage was really not that big of a deal and yes I should have kept continue to walk and not stopped. I feel a little like a victim here on this board as well due to some of the comments. I brought this up to warn other travelers and not to be lectured. I know I was stupid but I also learned a lesson. Enjoy your trip to Italy! I looked at renting a villa in Italy yesterday for next year. I think Chianti is calling my name yet again :)

Posted by
752 posts

I'm so secure with my RS money belt and RS neck wallet that i survived a pickpocket who scared everybody off a full bus in Rome! Not me, i stayed! LOL!

It was midday when locals started screaming Pickpocket, Pickpocket in Italian, the bus came to a hard stop in the middle of the road and everybody piled out, they tried getting me to go with them, but i preferred taking my chance with the pickpocket cause i didn't know where i was!

I turned to look at him, he looked at me, tall handsome blondish brown blue eyed man, i turned back around, the driver shut the door and kept on his route!

PS, i wear no purse and no cross body bag!

Posted by
2727 posts

I feel a little like a victim here on this board as well due to some of the comments.

You should ignore any comments that make you feel bad. Stuff happens, especially in certain cities and settings. People who make snide comments have been more lucky than smart, they just don't know it. They think things like, "Wow, I left that zipper unzipped" not realizing that earlier that day someone was in there looking for stuff.

We were marked by a pickpocket while climbing onto a train carriage in that typical Termini preboarding scrum, helping our children who were carrying bags, etc. In situations like this a pickpocket with good timing at judging your balance and distracted level has free reign to unzip a pocket and check out the contents--and they know it-- and being "super vigilant" isn't enough. Fortunately there was nothing of value in the pocket that was compromised.

Posted by
2499 posts

Wow Sandra I would have loved to have seen that whole scenario and the look on the bus drivers face as he drove you and the pickpocketer on to your preferred destination.

Posted by
2427 posts

Susanne, I'm sorry if you thought I was making you a victim...I didn't mean to do so. I did say this could happen to anyone, and meant it. I assume RS forum is for improving our travel and trying not to run into a problem so I added my thoughts. I assume I was the guilty party as a review of the other posts didn't reveal much victim language, IMO. We all know this can happen to anyone as some time when we are distracted or trusting or tired. My goal is to make my travels as safe as possible as I travel solo more now. Best, Wray (And I'm a former Rhode Islander!)

Posted by
752 posts

Me too, Susanne! I hope you weren't referring to me! When i use the word you, i mean it generical, not specific to any person!

I'm learning too! LOL! I found out what that spraying was all about when i read your post! That shows how unaware I am of my surroundings! LOL!

Posted by
752 posts

Hi Mona!
Yes the driver gave me ample time to leave the bus too, but i was so startled by the event, it happened so fast and sudden that i just froze, and because i didn't know where i was, I'd rather take my chances with the pickpocket instead of deboarding with strangers in an unknown part of town!

At least I knew who the pickpocket was! I actually felt safer on the bus with him! And he was HOT! Anyway my RS neck wallet and RS money belt gets me thru the notorious Southside Chicago East Englewood ghetto where i live and the dangerous inner city Chicago Loop, so i knew i was safe in that case, he wasn't stalking me, had Not targeted or marked me in any way! Besides, his cover was blown! LOL!

Posted by
11551 posts

I actually felt safer on the bus with him! And he was HOT!

That is hilarious.
An encounter with a pickpocket might not be so bad if it's a hunky one, eh? Hubba-hubba!

Posted by
1720 posts

Yikes. As I've said on the tourist scams thread, the only times I've felt vulnerable was on the packed Paris Metro when it's jostling around and you're just trying not to fall over, and then near the Duomo in Florence amongst the crowds. Nothing happened either time but geez, it can happen to anybody.

We will be in Rome in a few months, and we are planning on riding the bus quite often to get around. Some friends of ours who have an apartment there in the winter ride the buses all the time, say they're crowded as heck most of the time, and I'm sure nobody messes with them because, well, they live there and don't look like tourists! It's going to be interesting to try and blend in and not be looking up and down and all around, because there's so much to see!

Posted by
11613 posts

Jay, Italians get pickpocketed, too, but as has been posted, if you are in transit between cities and lose critical documents or cards, it makes the experience worse.

Posted by
75 posts

Just wanted to share- last week we were in Rome and enjoying the view above Piazza del Popolo Square (Borghese Park...) after we took some pictures of the view, my husband stepped back to wait for us, watching the crowd he very easily picked out two gentlemen who were looking for opportunities- he pointed them out to us-- it was interesting to watch how they worked as a team-- acting like solo tourists and wearing mirrored sunglasses, one at a time, they would take a picture of the view, maneuver closer to people and take selfies, then offer to take a picture of each other (as though they were strangers)-- they kept repeating this as groups moved in and out of the area -- moving to different parts of the crowds. It was very easy to see that they were not tourists after watching for just a minute or 2. We did not actually see them taking anything but I did see many tourists enjoying themselves and not really paying attention to their unzipped purses, bags, etc. and can certainly guess they were providing opportunity for these two.

Posted by
73 posts

I am a sole female traveler.
I follow ALL Rick Steves caution advisories.
I sew pockets inside slacks, inside vests, inside jackets. Everything important: passport, airline & travel info, more than 100 euros, credit & debit cards are all housed in these zippered inner pockets.
Carryon Rick Steves backpack & daypack. Minimal everything.
It makes travel a joy and safe.
I don't rent cars. I buy train tickets through Captain Train (which has recently changed names.) it's a superb train tickets site, in English, foolproof (even for me).
I've been through Termini and many other stations, through France, Italy, Sicily and always have felt safe.
I rent AirBnB's with patios so I can "sit outside late and enjoy my wine."
Danger is everywhere in the world.
I watch travelers in my San Francisco "begging to be robbed or have their iPhone snatched". We all need to be street smart even in our own neighborhoods.
Travel is one of life's greatest joys and connects us all.

Posted by
5701 posts

That "bird poo" trick is quite common in Buenos Aires too.

Posted by
1759 posts

I had a bird poop on my shoulder in the Dordogne. I wasn't robbed. I had some Foie Gras to get even.

Posted by
308 posts

Thank you for your concerns. I actually put a travel report on Travelocity as I always do on all my trips and the Beehive owner wrote a reply and blatantly lied and told me it was my fault this had happened. You are all welcome to read the report and reply on the site. I wrote Travelocity and told them and asked for he reply to be removed. I am over this whole Rome trip and the lies and utter unprofessional behavior from the Beehive owner Linda. She also forgot to mentioned how annoyed she wrote me when I wrote her and asked what exactly was returned in detail.

Posted by
6171 posts

Susanne,
I'm not sure what your travel report/theft has to do with the Beehive, can you clarify? I thought you were satisfied with the accommodations? If so, why are they getting roped into this? Please provide a direct link if you want people to read your report. With all due respect, third party sites don't remove a rebuttal because the initial complainant doesn't like it. When you complain on the internet, you risk a rebuttal that you won't be pleased with. That's only fair to give a business the right to respond on record.

Edit: Ok, I found your report on TripAdvisor (not Travelocity). I'm sorry to say this, but I found the owner's response to be quite professional. She has a right to protect her business and offer her point of view. There is no evidence presented that inadequate security by the Beehive was responsible for your theft. You wrote that the hotel proper was protected by a gate and bell - that is really their only responsibility, not anything that happens outside their perimeter. I'm not sure what "lie" you're referring to. The bottom line is that it is certainly not up to me (or any other stranger on the internet) to adjudicate what actually happened. Thefts are the job of the police, not the court of popular opinion.

Posted by
308 posts

Hi Agnes, my backpack was not returned. backyard is indeed not what is presented in the online add and she faulted me for a rare occasion of theft which did not happen the way she described it at all. I agree the Beehive had zero to do with the theft my observations of gates, homeless person was not connected to the theft at all. Instead she made me feel bad and wrote basically it was my fault. I do believe my overview of the Beehive was fine and I even had recommended this place to travelers on a budget.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187791-d263860-Reviews-The_Beehive-Rome_Lazio.html

Posted by
23547 posts

The response from the owner seems very balanced and open, and she is right that you could have mentioned that your backpack was found.

Ever since you have posted this you have used words designed to inspire fear. You were not robbed, based on the description you yourself posted of the event. Your backpack which your husband put down and walked away from to attend to you was stolen and later abandoned.

For you to be robbed there would have to be a weapon and/or threats of or actual violence. Does a liquid splashed on you count as a weapon or violence?

Were these men thugs? What violence? They distracted you and made off with a bag with no violence. It was a classic distraction theft.

What can the Beehive do if somebody sleeps on the sidewalk? I am sure that Fulda has homeless people sleeping on the street, and I bet Rhode Island does too. They certainly used to when I drove from Boston to Providence. What can they do about a distraction theft a block away?

I am sorry that you were caught in the scam, but when you over exaggerate it hurts your credibility.

Is it possible that loading down your husband with 2 suitcases and your backpack even though you had told him never to put anything down could be part of the problem - making him and then you a target?

Posted by
11613 posts

I have noticed that the "robbery" is mentioned in a lot of Susanne's posts, which gives the impression that there are lots of robberies going on if the reader doesn't check the OP's name.

I have been robbed (twice) IN THE US, it was quite a different experience from Susanne's.

Train station areas, unfortunately, are target-rich in most big cities. Hyper-vigilance when you have lots of luggage helps.

Posted by
308 posts

I truly did not wanted to install fear but make people aware of these kind of things happening in Rome. I find it interesting that I am made to be out the bad guy when in fact I was a victim. In my opinion this is a very American thing. The Beehive received a good rating from me and she should have not even said a thing except she was sorry this had happened. I did scroll through some of the reviews last night finally and if they had an unhappy customer they destroyed that customer online with some pretty harsh words instead of hey we are sorry maybe we can improve in that area. Its called customer service.

Posted by
11613 posts

Susanne, I don't think you're the bad guy in this; about The Beehive, I have never stayed there but it is highly recommended by posters here.

Posted by
628 posts

Susanne, sorry you had to go through this - especially with your medicine. And thank you for sharing your story to educate others about the different scams out there.

Posted by
752 posts

Now you know who Not to deal with Susanne. Sometimes information you need to proceed comes in the back door like this, whether it's directly or indirectly related, doesn't matter, you don't like it, now avoid it.

You'd be surprised how many of us got punked in Italy! I learned Not to use venere.com because something awful happened to me at Stella's House in Rome, and when i reported it, venere.com refused to print it and accused me of making it up! It was a sign to avoid Stella's House and venere.com, valuable information that serves us again and again.

There are many many places to stay in Rome, I went on to find lovely places to stay, with people who care for me. And so will you Susanne, you will go on to find so much better stays, so good you'll feel they were designed just for you!

So don't see this as something you said or shudda cudda wudda said or didn't say, you got some information that surprises you and disappoints you too, see it as information that helps guide future choices!

Look at me, I get sprayed and don't even know it, l learned it from you! LOL! But that's me zooming down the streets of Rome like a two-legged Bull! I do it here in Chicago, have to or I die!

But then I'm alone every where I travel, key is I travel very very light, one RS roller carryon weighing under 15 lbs. total, will get that down even less, and one RS Euro Flight Bag! RS money belt, RS neck wallet are the only things on me when I'm out and about!